Boca’s new “Craft Beer and Bar Kitchen” continues the Ft. Lauderdale legacy
When a daring new restaurant called “Tap 42” opened in Ft. Lauderdale about five years ago, I was intrigued. Here was an unknown newcomer, moving into an old building that once housed Brownie’s (Ft. Lauderdale’s oldest bar and liquor store), in a rather unglamorous section of S. Andrews Avenue – seemingly worlds apart from trendy Las Olas Boulevard just a few miles away. Even more intriguing was the entire concept – a chef-driven “gastropub,” specializing in craft beers, burgers, and bourbon. And not just any ol’ beer mind you, but 42 artisan craft beers on tap, and (even more intriguing) 42 kinds of bourbon. The whole idea doesn’t seem quite so novel now, but this was before south Florida was invaded by the upscale burger craze (i.e., before BurgerFi, Zinburger, Shula Burger, Shake Shack, ROK Burger, Habit Burger, American Social, and the like entered the fray). And this was before the onslaught of local craft beers, brewpubs, and gastropubs, and certainly before artisan bourbons became the hot new “In” drink. As founders Sean and Blaise McMackin, proudly note, “Tap 42 was among the first concepts in Fort Lauderdale to combine signature architectural design with a chef-driven menu and craft beer and cocktail beverage program.”
But despite the odds, Tap 42 garnered innumerable award and accolades from its inception, including my own personal designation as “The Best Burger & Beer in Broward.” So, you can only imagine our excitement when Tap 42 opened its second location, right here in Boca Raton! And after months (and months) of eager waiting, Tap 42 has finally arrived, taking a prime spot in the Shops at Boca Center, in the space formerly occupied by English Tap & Beer Garden (and previously, by the beloved Cucina D’ Angelo). The Boca location continues the Ft. Lauderdale legacy, offering “upscale pub grub” and chef-driven, innovative renditions of classic favorites, along with a rotating selection of 42 (or more) craft beers on tap, 42 bourbons, and a full bar.
The interior setting is rustic and relaxed, with reclaimed woods lining the walls, and solid wood high-tops and tables. Taking center stage is the long circular bar, which also services the expansive outdoor patio. The interior is surprisingly dark, and very loud; while the outdoor patio offers ample al fresco seating, where you can actually talk with your dining companions without having to scream. As with the original location, Tap 42 is still the place for some kick-ass Burgers ($13 – $14), made daily with a proprietary Sirloin, Tenderloin, & Chuck blend, served on a toasted challah bun with custom-made pickles and fries. The signature Prohibition Burger with white cheddar, Applewood-smoked bacon, and “secret sauce” is the best seller. Other options include the Drunken Goat Burger (lamb & beef blend topped with whipped goat cheese, arugula, and a house-made Avita Purple Haze raspberry jam); Avocado Turkey Burger, a vegetarian Falafel Burger, and daily specials. Hint: Whichever burger you choose, opt for a fried egg on top. As we foodies know, “once you’ve tried a fried egg on your burger, you’ll never go back!”
But Tap 42 is more than just a burger & beer joint, as Executive Chef Andrew Balik’s new menu focuses far more on creative tapas and entrees than burgers (in fact, the Prohibition is the only all-beef burger on the regular menu). To wit, an array of new Appetizers span the culinary gamut, from Chicken Little Sliders (truffle honey-dipped fried chicken sandwiches), to Char-Grilled Chicken Wings (with a sweet & spicy BBQ sauce), to Miso-Glazed Shisito Peppers and Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($7.50 – $12.50). Of particular note is the Tuna & Crab Rolls, Chef Andrew’s take on a traditional New England Lobster Roll, with tender morels of ahi tuna and lump crabmeat nestled in an old-school toasted potato roll. Our favorite starter was the Short Rib Beef Sliders (2 for $9.50), featuring two mini versions of Tap 42’s signature white cheddar burgers, topped with some of the best braised short rib around. (Hint: Although not on the menu, you can order a full-size version upon request, or top any burger with that braised short rib!). Also look for the chef’s daily specials, like those lip-smackin’ Pulled Pork Sliders on our night, braised in Angry Orchard hard apple cider (in lieu of apple cider vinegar) and served on those same yummy potato rolls.
Entrees (“Tap Favorites”) are even more impressive, and further evidence Tap 42’s new direction away from burgers. Grilled Salmon Zen Bowl, for instance sees a fresh salmon filet snuggling with pan-fried brown rice, green veggie stir-fry, and truffle miso glaze; while the special Oven Baked Shrimp Mac & Cheese is a rich helping of comfort that satisfies the soul, as well as the palate. Citrus & Herb Grilled Chicken is a definite winner, featuring a tender grilled chicken breast filet bathed a vibrant citrus-herb marinade sided with a shredded kale salad, finished with grated Parm and a balsamic drizzle. Other mainplate options ($14-$18) include Beer-battered Fish & Chips, Beer-braised Mussels with fries (Chef’s twist on classic Moules Frites), and a killer grilled Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich with caramelized onions and truffle aioli are entrée options, along with nightly specials.
A healthy selection of composed Salads offer some lighter, yet meal-worthy options. Grilled chicken strips and fresh avocado share the plate with charred corn, black beans, Manchego cheese, mixed greens, chopped tomatoes, and tortilla strips to comprise the Grilled Chicken Avocado Salad — a southwestern-inspired version of a traditional Cobb. Meanwhile, the Golden Quinoa Superfood Salad is a healthy-as-hell compilation of mixed greens, mandarin oranges, Brussels sprouts, tart green apples, Feta cheese, dried cranberries, and almonds – like a Whole Foods salad bar on your plate. Grilled Salmon Chopped Salad and Ahi Tuna Poke Salad are other options ($13 – $17.50), any of which may be augmented with grilled or blackened chicken, salmon, mahi-mahi, or filet mignon.
And of course, no trip to Tap 42 is complete without putting the bar to the test. In keeping with its namesake, the bar offers a continuously changing rotation of 42 (or more) craft beers on tap, plus the bottles and bombers. General Manager Chase Walton proudly notes the bar’s “strong focus on local Florida microbreweries.” You’ll also find the area’s most expansive whiskey selection around, with at least 42 types of bourbon, as well as other whiskeys (Irish, Canadian, Scotch, Rye, Blended, Sour Mash, etc.). The full bar also features creative signature cocktails, like the Blazing Cucumber (Gin, house-made basil simple syrup, lime, cucumber puree); How to Marry a Millionaire (Vodka grapefruit, simple syrup, lime juice, Aperol, and Grapefruit bitters), and seasonal specialties like the Pumpkin Spice Martini made w fresh pumpkin puree.
Yes, Tap 42 has a lot to offer, and judging by the usual crowds, it’s already become a local favorite. But a word of warning: The place is just too damn loud. So loud, that it’s difficult, if not impossible to have a normal conversation or even order a drink without screaming. The high ceiling, wood walls, and polished concrete floor create an acoustically-challenged environment to begin with, especially when the place is packed (which it usually is). But the primary dysfunctional culprit here is the exceedingly loud, electronic, synthesized techno-noise (it can’t qualify as “music”) blasted without mercy. The blaring techno-noise might be expected at some late night SoBe night club — but it’s just not appropriate for a casual eatery & pub (especially in Boca), where people come to relax, socialize, enjoy a good meal & drink, without having to scream just to place an order. So if you prefer a relaxed setting more than a night club, sit outside, where you can at least hear yourself think. One other pet peeve here: The one single item most people want on their burgers and fries is of course ketchup – but for some reason, you have to ask for ketchup like it’s something special here. And then, the server brings you one (and only one) small metal ramekin of ice-cold ketchup. Why?? Hey, Tap 42 – People don’t want ice-cold ketchup on their hot burgers and fries! (So if you want ketchup on your burger, ask your server to take some out of the cooler as soon as you’re handed a menu – BEFORE you even order!)
Despite the minor quips, Tap 42 is indeed the cool “craft beer and bar kitchen” it claims. And judging by the crowds, it looks like this newcomer has really tapped into the Boca scene!
Tap 42 is located at 5050 Town Center Circle in the Shops of Boca Center in Boca Raton (561/235-5819). Open daily for lunch and dinner, plus a great Sunday Brunch featuring $15 all-you-can-drink Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas, and Funky Buddha Floridian. Also take advantage of daily specials, including the daily Happy Hours, $5 Prohibition Burger Monday, Ladies’ Night on Wednesday, and ongoing events through its social media. www.tap42.com
The Ft. Lauderdale location is at 1411 South Andrews Ave (954/ 463-4900).
Restaurant Placement Group: www.RestaurantPlacement.com
Tap 42, Boca, Restaurant Placement Group, Restaurant, Beer, Reviews